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Kashmir Trekking


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In addition to owning the houseboat we stayed on in Srinagar Golam lead pony treks into the surrounding mountains in the Indian Himalayas. We set out with him for 6 days of tent camping. Our party consisted of a 4 ponies, two pony men, a cook, Golam, Kasha, Meghan, and myself. We traveled by jeep for three hours to a small village at the end of a rough dirt road. The first night we camped along a nice river that was only a kilometer or so from were we left the jeep. This left plenty of time for fishing. Golam provided a curios set up that was a mix of spin and fly fishing. He had a spin rod, a fly real, and tackle that was a mixture of the both. Regardless of the weird set up it was not long before I had my first rainbow trout.
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Riverside Camp
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Golam looking for Trout

From our riverside camp we would climb out of the valley the next day through pine forests to a high meadow that was home to hundreds of sheep and nomadic Gujar sheepherders. We made camp with a spectacular views of high snowcapped mountains and lush valleys. From this base camp we spent the next two days exploring and then had a rest day. We were above tree line but still on green grassy terrain that made for open hiking and remarkable views. The first day we climbed to two lakes. In between the two we had to cross a wide stream. The water was freezing cold and it took a good time before I regained any feeling in my feet. We were able to catch a few fish in the lake to have with our dinner. The next day we climbed high up onto the snow, over a ridge, and to a frozen lake beneath an impressive mountain. I had fun sliding down the snow on my feet skier style while Kasha used her rain cover as a sled. She accidentally collided with Meghan and the two of them came sliding down the mountainside on top of each other!
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Morning Mist viewed from camp
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Gujar sheep herders
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Meghan, Kasha, and Golam making their way up towards the lakes
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Lower Lake
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Golam rigging his tackle with a dry fly trailed by a Mepps spinner? And we still caught them on the not so “dry” fly.

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Meghan up on the snowfield

On our way back to camp we took shelter from rain in one of the nomadic Gujar tents. They offered us tea and chapattis to pass the time. To warm themselves they would take coals from the fire and place them in a clay pot surrounded by a whicker basket. This would then be tucked under their woolen poncho keeping the entire body warm.. The whole family took part in smoking tobacco from a large hookah. They would take coals from the warming basket and place them on top of the huge bowl of tobacco and puff away. It was one of those amazing moments that catch you completely of guard. At one moment I was completely frustrated over the rainy weather and at the next I was awed by the generosity and hospitality of people who have practically nothing. While all this was going on Golam was down at the river catching us more fish for dinner.
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Incoming Weather
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Our Friends at the Gular tent
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Unfortunately we could not escape the weather. It rained every day and on our last day it rained almost all day. A huge thunder cloud settled right above us delivering lightning and hail. We huddled in the tent covered in blankets and all of our warm gear for the entire afternoon as we did every afternoon. The clouds rarely lifted to expose the grandeur of our surroundings. Despite all this we still were able to have a really enjoyable experience. Tarig, the 18 year old pony man, was really nice and in his limited English we were able to get to know him over the 6 days. He lived in the mountains and his family were sheepherders. He spoke a local dialect that even Golum did not understand. He hiked the entire time in a pair of loafers with a disintegrating rubber sole. Even with this he was agile on the snow and had no problem crossing wet rock gardens and passing through deep mud. Our cook was also very nice and spoke a good amount of English. He had been a camp cook for 30 years in Kashmir and had his routine down. The food was consistently good and the trout was just fantastic.
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Mist in the pines
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Too much tent time
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Ajmer serving up dinner in the mess tent
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Tarig and Meghan

Coming from Colorado and having so much experience backpacking it was difficult being catered to and seeing the huge impact on the land. The concept of “leave no trace” camping does not exist here. Impacted camp sights were everywhere and all of them contained their fair amount of trash. We picked up after ourselves and encouraged our guide to do the same but we could tell the concept was not there. It was sad to see the land being polluted and we both felt guilty for contributing to it. If anything we hope that by showing that we wanted to pack out our trash we influenced Golam to do the same.

Posted by pmunson 04:56 Archived in India

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Comments

Fresh mountain fish, rainy days, two blonds, pony's to ride, sounds all good to me Peter. Robin

by robin chandler

Hey guys- I’ve enjoyed all your blogging and always look forward to the next one. When it’s a long time between blogs I wonder, “where are they and what the heck are they up to.” I’ve enjoyed reading about the places I’ve been to before, and there are quite a few between Malacca (I bet that seems so long ago) and Chhomrong where I spent 2 nights and 2+ days recovering from seized up calf muscles while eating Nepali pizzas and drinking Danish beers delivered by a young kid who would point at Annapurna and announce “Look, avalanche,” and then deposit the food on the table. I’ve also enjoy, with a sense of envy, the places I wished I’d seen, The Golden Temple and Kashmir top that list for sure.
Since we now have a puppy I find myself googling things international travel with a dog and can one take a dog on the Trans Siberian Railroad (you can but crossing boarders might be problematic).
I don’t know what you guys are thinking about next but my advice would be to stay away for as long as it’s fun and this adventure still expanding your world view because the economy here is still in a funk and I don’t know how easy it will be to find gainful employment when you return.
Again, thanks for all the info.

Happy Travels, Jon

by Jon Adler

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